For today’s generation, Hitler is the most hated man in history. His regime has become the the archetype of political evil.
However, this view does not extend to his economic policies. To the contrary, many of his policies are embraced by governments all around the world.
For example, the Glenview state bank of Chicago famously praised Hitler‘s economics in its monthly newsletter. In doing so, the bank discovered the hazard of praising Keynesian policies in the wrong context.
Whether in Germany or the United states, the controversy highlights the ways in which the connection between violence and central planning is still not understood.
In the 1930s, Hitler was widely viewed as just another protectionist central planner who recognized the supposed failure of the free market and the need for nationally guided economic development.
Proto-keynesian socialist economist Joan Robinson wrote that Hitler found a cure against unemployment. Keynes himself supported Hitler’s chief economic policies:
- suspension of the gold standard
- development of huge public works programs like the Audubon
- protection of industry from foreign competition
- expanded credit
- institution of job programs
- Bullying of private sector on prices and production decisions
- vastly expanded the military
- enforced capital controls
- instituted family planning
- penalized smoking
- brought about national health care and unemployment insurance
- imposed educational standards
Such programs remain widely praised. Today, even given their failures, they are features of every capitalist democracy.
Before we demand central planning from our own governments, we should remember where many of these practices originated – and their eventual conclusions.